The challenges faced by today's church include how to make Christ's presence and message relevant in the 21st century. How about the image of Jesus born in a storage shed behind Wal-Mart, rather than a manger behind the inn? Or the idea of helping folks give their gifts through online giving and not just when they are in worship and remember to bring their checkbooks?
The truth is, online giving is a new direction to follow but also an amazing gift for today's church.
Here are a few objections often cited as a roadblock to online giving:
- It's too complex. It's insecure; our identities will be stolen!
- Our church is too small. Our members won't use it!
- Wait, it costs us a percent of every gift?
- The already and the not yet.
It's too complex/insecure/dangerous.
These objections are tied to the perceived difficulty in the implementation of online giving. Yes, there is some work to be done, but most of the work, as it turns out, already has been done. There are many partners out there who specialize in church giving, and whose solutions are turnkey implementations that any church can use.
Some of these turnkey partners include:
- Vanco (The United Methodist Church has a partnership with Vanco to assist churches with electronic giving.)
Each of these companies has a turnkey solution with varying amounts of flexibility and pricing structures. Some of them allow a simple gift, while others allow giving across several different funds in one payment. Some allow recurring giving.
Our church is too small/our members won't use it.
Many of the services out there don't charge a monthly fee. The fee structure is entirely transaction based. If there are no donations during a month, there is no cost. It is convenient hospitality for those who use it, especially non-attendees who want to make a quick gift to the church, but otherwise can be no cost for the church.
But, wait, it costs us a percent of every gift?
True. It does. There is no free service. The fee structure of online giving implementations varies, but companies seem to offer some combination of a monthly service fee, a per-transaction fee and/or a per-transaction percent. And, yes, that can add up to significant money, but only if there is significant giving.
The right cost/benefit solution will be different for every church. But, here's the important piece: There is a structure that is right for every church.
The already and the not yet.
To say that online giving will be an important element to the church in the future, while true, denies the evidence of statistics: That future is here now.
It may not seem like online giving would be a big draw in some individual contexts, but evidence suggests that we'd all be surprised by the number of people who take advantage of the convenience of not having to remember a check or cash every Sunday morning.
Perhaps, more importantly, churches need to recognize that the world functions in a new dynamic. And, it's not as hard or as expensive as one might think to keep up with the times.
Stephen Dale is the pastor of the Limestone United Methodist Church in Limestone, Maine
Prior to his appointment in Maine, Stephen Dale served the St. Stephen's United Methodist Church in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, while he attended Boston University School of Theology for his Master of Divinity. Prior to entering divinity school, he held a career as an information technology professional working at networking. If you have questions or would like to discuss possibilities, email him at [email protected].